Sunday, August 2, 2009

How did we miss Beauty?

"Beauty is the essence of a woman. We want to b perfectly clear that we mean both a physical beauty and a soulful/spiritual beauty. The one depends upon and flows out of the other. Yes, the world cheapens and prostitutes beauty... But Christians minimize it too, or over-spiritualize it, making it all about "character". We must recover the prize of Beauty. The church must take it back... God gave Eve a beautiful form AND a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. Like God, it is her essence."

There are a lot of days when I don't feel beautiful. I am so spent from the "to-do"s of life that my hair is nappy, my nails are brittle, my legs are hairy, and I'm too exhausted to do anything about any of it... The only thing I can think of to do for myself is sleep.

And yet the question, "Am I beautiful?" dominated so much of my teenage years - unsaved and churched! I want to be considered a beautiful person. I want my character - when I'm funny, or silly, or caring, or thoughtful - to be seen as beautiful. I want to be looked at as beautiful, not in vain conceit for EVERYONE.... I think I can put it best when I saw Memoirs of a Geisha. There is a part where Mameha is training Sayuri to be a Geisha, and puts her to the test by saying that in order for her to truly fulfill her role she has to be able to - with one glance - stop a man dead in his tracks. Later in the movie it is Sayuri who reminds Mameha that she possesses the beauty to do this. After all, in Japan a Geisha was not a prostitute, but actually "art in motion". She got paid to show up beautiful, be beautiful in conversation, liven the room with the beauty of her music, and in doing only and exclusively this she would create a beautiful fantasy world for men.

I want that to be me! But not for men or their fantasies but for God's kingdom. It's extremely odd because most people would say, "you don't have to look pretty to serve at church!" It doesn't seem like there's a place for beauty in kingdom things, in church things. And yet women come in and decorate the sanctuary for the holiday, replace flowers, create greeting cards and programs... and men appreciate it. We put on our Sunday best and go to church so that everything in the earthly can be as beautiful as possible.

And now that I think of it, the Temple was beautiful! God instructed men to carve angels and flowers, in gold and in silver, on wood or marble... with linens of purple and red... Heaven is described as beautiful, with 12 different precious stones as its foundations, with pearly gates and streets of Gold.

God is beautiful. Men weren't created to reflect this about God - Women were. It's a role that is uniquely ours. We know God is beautiful because nature reflects it, and the Creator has to possess the qualities more perfectly than creation. The mountains here in Alaska are breath-taking. The weeds on the floor are beautiful - purple and yellows and whites on the side of the road. And yet one thing that the book pointed out that brought tremendous joy to my heart was this: Nature is primarily beautiful, not primarily functional. God is first and foremost beautiful, then He is also functional or purposeful. And women were created for the purpose of being beautiful - not to be effective or functional!

We are effective, we are functional, but this is not our God-given glory. The glory of God that we as women bear, the insignia that He made females in His image, is simply that we are beautiful. **cue Christina Aguilera song... no just kidding! **

And just how we miss this among ourselves, we miss this in our worship of God. He is beautiful! And it doesn't offend him to be called beautiful! In fact, when we worship God for His beauty, we finally worshiping Him for who He is and not for what He can do for us. The saints in the Bible who truly sought after God, when they finally saw Him, were so overtaken by His beauty that they couldn't bear to look at Him. They described it as His Holiness. Being beautiful and holy, in Christ, is one and the same thing.

And we were created to somehow personify that here on earth - to embody a little bit of it. "And this is what its like to be with a woman at rest, a woman comfortable in her feminine beauty. She is enjoyable to be with. She is lovely. In her presence your heart stops holding is breath. You relax and believe once again that all will be well..." This is what we accomplish in men, in our faithful and loving spouses... or what we desire to accomplish and somehow feel we fail at. I know of women who are struggling with this because they don't feel they have this effect on their husbands - and they feel so unloved as a result of it.

"Beauty is, without question, the most essential and the most misunderstood of all of God's qualities - of all feminine qualities too... A woman knows, down in her soul, that she longs to bring beauty to the world. She might be mistaken on how (something every woman struggles with), but she longs for a beauty to unveil. This is not just culture, or the need to "get a man". This is in her heart, part of her design."

I can see this in Brielle. At 20 months she does not have the hormones to be physically/sexually attracted to men. She has not consciously lived long enough to learn patterns of behavior that tell her she needs to be a certain way. And yet in the pureness of her essence, Brielle wants to be beautiful and she flaunts it! She gives you big smiles and bats her eyes, she turns her head to the side to look even cuter. She loves wearing a dress, she loves having hair clips, she loves being told that she's pretty. She's also cried when she was told she was "big". I'm not making this up. Her favorite song is when Anakin or I sing "Brielle is a pretty girl, all the people say so, she's so pretty - that's what they all say" (a song her grandmommy made up). Ask her dad, or her pastor, and they'll tell you that she knows the way to a man's heart with the way she just walks up to you and does what she is created to do - be beautiful.

May I never discourage her in this area. May I never be quicker to make fun of her or point out her flaws that I don't compliment her. And may her dad always tell her that she's beautiful - from now until her wedding day. I stopped hearing it somewhere after I turned 6 and never heard it again until my wedding day. There were of course occasions where my mom or my aunts would tell me I look beautiful. I don't recall a specific instance of hearing it from my dad - in fact, not even on my wedding day. I know he loves me! I never knew that I didn't have to attain beauty through puberty and make up and exercise - that I was already created beautiful from day one.

Paul always complimented me and I never took it... I had a hard time believing him because I just assumed that is something that nice husbands are obligated to say once in a while. But reading this chapter made me realize that to Paul I am not just pretty but a captivating beauty. I am his Geisha and his lawfully wedded wife. My essence motivates Paul to be the best husband and the best man of God he can be. And accepting this, living in it, enjoying it, and maybe even flaunting it a little will bring a whole lot more passion and intimacy in our marriage then there has been in the past.

My prayer is that there may be other women who can put on the confidence of being beautiful and try again to captivate their husband's hearts. We are so quick to criticize when our husbands have stopped being romantic, stopped bringing flowers, stopped complimenting us but can we acknowledge that we also have stopped inspiring? Stopped trying? Stopped smiling?

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